Word of the Day- “angehen”

angehen-pictureHello everyone,

and welcome to our German Word of the Day. This time we will have a look at the meaning of

angehen

 

Radio is a visual medium… uh… I mean a visual large. Wait… I mean acoustic medium.
So Steve, the producer of this radio here, and it totally is a radio show, has been to a seminar in Canada over the weekend called “Holy shit – holistic learning”. And besides 967 pictures which we all had to look at during the daily meeting he brought back some new ideas. He thinks, since we’re on the radio here, it would be great to rely a little less on just explaining and work with a acoustical impressions a little more instead… well… he’s the boss so here we go.
Here’s our first sound.

“paeaeaeaehhhhhhhhhhhh”

Did you recognize it?

Exactly… that was the Apple start up sound.

“pluh plooo    pla plimmm  hhhhhhhhhh”

And that was Windows, an old version, anyway.
And what does this have does that have to do with angehen? Well, let’s look at this.  angehen consists of the parts an and gehen. Depening on context an can translate to on, at, for and to. But in essence it stands for 2 ideas… and one of that is on in sense of running.

  • Ich mache mein Radio an.
  • I turn on my radio.

Gehen means to go. Both verbs are used for many things but the German one is a little more shifted toward the  idea of functioning/working.

  • “Könnten wir uns vielleicht in dem Café bei mir treffen?”
    “Ja, das geht.”
  • “Would it be possible to meet at the cafe close to my place?”
    “Yeah, that works
  • Mein Handy geht nicht.
  • My phone isn’t working.

Ad together with the on-an we get the first meaning of angehento come/turn on for …well… devices of any kind.

  • Mein Handy geht nicht an.
  • My cell phone won’t come on.
  • Auf dem Hof ist ein Bewegungsmelder, das Licht geht also automatisch an.
  • There is a motion detector on the yard so the light turns on automatically.
  • DER Geburtstagsscherz: magische Kerzen. Du kannst sie ausblasen soviel du willst, sie gehen immer wieder an.
  • THE birthday prank: magic candles. You can blow them out all you want, they always come back on.

Now what’s important to remember is that angehen is ONLY what the thing itself does. Not what you do. So it is not always a translation for to turn on. When you push the light switch then you do turn on the light… but you do NOT angehen the light. What you do is anmachen the light and then the light can either angehen or not. It’s a free country.

  • Ich gehe den Fernseher an… WRONG.

The opposite of angehen is ausgehen by the way.
All right.
Now, I said that an  stands for two concepts and the meaning we just had was using the on/off-idea.
But of course there is also angehen with the other an. The local one.
And there are actually three distinct meanings Here they are in English in context…

  • “How good a kisser are you?”
    “None of your business.”
    “Sadly.”
  • “What was that look?!”
    “Sir?”
    “Oh you know what I mean…d
    on’t you EVER look at me like that again just because I take decaff, you hear me young man?!!”
    “Sorry Sir?”
  • “Quite a project.”
    “Let’s do this man, today’s the day.”

Hard to believe, but all these will be translated with angehen. Crazy right?
The first one was to concern, the second one was to snap at someone and the third was to tackle, to start working.  They do look all pretty different but at the very core they all share the idea of going towards or going at.
Let’s say, we have a problem or a project. It stands there like a huge block. And what do we do to deal with it? We go towards it. We go at it. We approach it.

  • Wir gehen das Problem an.
  • We approach/ start solving/dealing with the problem.

Pretty straight forward, I think. There is also a variation of this…

  • Die Stadt geht gegen die Drogendealer im Park an.
  • The community is going up against/taking measures against the drug dealers in the park.

The gegen just makes it more confrontational, but the underlying idea is the same… the going at something.
And it works the same for the second meaning… the snapping at someone. It is basically a going towards someone…. just a sudden, angry and possibly violent one.

  • “Maria ist heut’ irgendwie komisch drauf.”
    “Oh ja… als ich mich vorhin beim Essen zu ihr gesetzt hab’, um ein bisschen Small Talk zu machen, ist sie mich angegangen, von wegen, dass ich sie doch in Ruhe lassen soll mit diesem banalen Gequatsche und so…”
    “Vielleicht wieder irgendwelche Thomas-Probleme”
  • “Maria is being weird today.”
    “Oh yes… when I sat down next to her during lunch to do a little small talk she totally snapped at me like  I should leave her alone with all that trivial gab and so …
    “Maybe she has Thomas-issues again.”

This usage is kind of rare though.
The one meaning of angehen that is most important is  to concern… in sense of to be someones business.
Now how do we get from the idea of going at or toward to to concern? Well… An information that is not my business does not go my way… in an abstract sense. Like…

  • “How much do you earn a month”…
    “That information does not go to you.”

And this is really not that far away from

  • That is not your business.

This concern-angehen is super hyper mega turbo warp common not only because you can use it to reject inappropriate questions.

  • “Have you done your homework?”
    “That’s non of your business.
    “Well, I am your mother so it actually IS my business.”
  • “Hast du dein Hausaufgaben gemacht?”
    “Das geht dich nichts an.”
    “Nun, ich bin deine Mutter und deshalb geht mich das SEHR WOHL was an.

What is a little weird is that we use nichts and (et)was instead of just not. So we say…

  • Etwas geht mich nichts/was an.
  • Something goes me nothing /something on.

That doesn’t really make sense on a logical level so we’ll have to use the Zen of the Student and just say “Okay. I accept.” (I feel like I keep quoting you, Mike :)
Now, there is another really really important usage of this angehen

  • “Wie war euer Urlaub.”
    Was das Wetter angeht super, aber der Strand war echt zu voll.”
  • “How was your vacation.”
    As far as the weather is concerned it was great, but the beach was definitely too crowded.”

This phrasing is super common an people use that a lot

  • Was … angeht….
  • As far as …. is concerned

Just insert whatever thing or person you want there… what?… oh .. right.. the cases. It is accusative. Because of … reasons. Reasons we must not worry about. Reasons I am too lazy to think about.

  • Was die genauen Gründe für Akkusativ angeht, bin ich total zufrieden mit meiner Unwissenheit.
  • As far as the exact reasons  for the accusative are concerned I am totally content with my nescience.

We should  mention that angehen is much more limited than to concern. For one thing it is not t concern in sense of worries. But what’s even more important because it is more confusing is the fact that it isn’t even always the business-concern. Often, the word you need is betreffen.

  • To whom it may concern.
  • An alle, die es betrifft.

Angehen and betreffen are rarely interchangeable, because although the meanings do overlap the usage patterns are quite fixed. You couldn’t really say

  • An alle, die es angeht.

but I can’t give you a reason why other than: because we use betreffen. As far as meaning goes, betreffen is shifted toward having to do with or having an effect on. Some classified information can very well betreffen … so it can be about you. But it probably doesn’t angehen you… it is classified after all.
Or take you neighbor. Generally, it doesn’t angehen you what he does but if  he’s drilling at night that probably betreffen you because it wakes you up.
I think angehen really works best in context information, of questions asked.

Now… there is one more meaning of angehen actually that doesn’t really fit in with the others.

  • Es geht nicht an, das du nie Staub saugst.
  • I is not acceptable, that you never vacuum.

I think it is kind of a combination of the work-idea of gehen and the arriving idea of an (at). But it is not that important because this meaning is kind of rare too, at least was spoken German angeht. And it only exists in the negative.

  • It is acceptable that you don’t vacuum sometimes.
  • Es geht an, dass du mal nicht Staub saugst.

This doesn’t make sense in German and people would probably not even know what you’re trying to say. So take “es geht nicht an” and “es kann nicht angehen” as sort of fixed phrases and store them in the rare meaning pile.

Speaking of fixed phrasings… there is another one

  • Wir lassen es langsam angehen.
  • We take it slow.

The English translation sounds like it would be the approach a problem angehen. In German it sounds more like the on/off-one.

  • We let it come on slowly.(lit.)

But of course you can pick whatever explanation works best for you.
All right. I think we’re done for today. What? Ongoing? Oh ongoing looks like angehen but it has nothing to do with it because the German an does not have the idea of onward in it. It just has on/off or at/to/toward. Ongoing could be laufend or anhaltend… which by the way is something you can tell people to scare them.

  • In German, laufend and anhaltend can both mean ongoing.

A quick look into the dictionary and of they go to Spanish class.
So… this was our German Word of the Day angehen. The 2 meanings that are the ones to remember are to come on for devices and to concern in sense of to be someones business. The 2 less important meanings were to approach (a problem) and to snap( at someone). Sounds like a very random selection of meanings at first but they can all be explained by the 2 basic ideas of an … the idea of on/off and the local idea of to/toward.
Here’s one last example that combines them all… can you understand it? :)

Was den angehenden (soon to be/emerging) Präsidenten angeht, so hoffe ich, dass er die Dinge, die in unserem Land nicht angehen, schnell und konsequent angeht, auch wenn ihn seine Gegner und die Presse dafür scharf angehen.

 

Nice, right?
If you have any questions about this or the article in general just leave me a comment. And if you want, you can test yourself with the little quiz we have prepared.
I hope you liked it and see you next time.

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Gerry
Gerry
6 months ago

Hallo –

I was struggling with how to translate “angehen” is this sentence:

Weil nach einem Erfolgserlebnis gehen sich die größeren Ziele gleich viel motivierter an.

Because after a sense of achievement, the bigger goals start motivating themselves – sort of like spurring themselves to greater heights?

Danke…

Tristan
Tristan
10 months ago

Hi Emanuel-

I am fairly new to German. Not sure I get this connotation of “gehen”

Der Verkauf im Kiosk geht nur über Bargeld.

Does it mean “goes by way of”? Maybe like “goes in this direction-geht in diese Richtung”.

gracias!

AlexP1960
AlexP1960
1 year ago

Hi Emanuel, thank you for the wonderful blog. It may even inspire me to write something in german some day. BTW I have almost written “It may even inspire me someday something in german to write“:)

Could you explain why “snap at someone” is NOT one of the meanings of “angehen” please (see one of the quiz questions)?

PeterB
PeterB
2 years ago

You came up with a nice example at the end. I think I got the meaning. So, does it go like this?

Was den angehenden (soon to be/emerging) Präsidenten angeht (as far … is concerned), so hoffe ich, dass er die Dinge, die in unserem Land nicht angehen (don’t work), schnell und konsequent angeht (make them work), auch wenn ihn seine Gegner und die Presse dafür scharf angehen.
(even if his opponents and the press attack/go after him because of that)

BTW, German is famous for long and convoluted sentences (like the above), which are mostly frowned upon in English. Is it still like this, or is it changing now in Germany to simpler sentences?

PeterB
PeterB
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks, and yes, I can see it now: “tackle/ deal with”

PeterB
PeterB
2 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Your example could be a title, but it is not a sentence, because it does not have a verb.
Admittedly, sometimes it is difficult to find the verb, and in that case, there is something wrong with the sentence, and it should be rewritten.

You are correct that many journalists write quite complex sentences. I guess I meant that general advice here is that if one can split a sentence into two in an easy way, then it should be done. So, I’ve looked at your sentence again, and now it does not look as complex as it did before, and I don’t see an easy way to split it. I’m sure my perception is different depending on the language.

PeterB
PeterB
2 years ago

Did you mean to provide the German version in this section:
• How good a kisser are you?”
“None of your business.”
“Sadly.”
• “What was that look?!”
“Sir?”
“Oh you know what I mean…don’t you EVER look at me like that again just because I take decaff, you hear me young man?!!”
“Sorry Sir?”
• “Quite a project.”
“Let’s do this man, today’s the day.”

Anonymous
Anonymous
2 years ago

how about just writing what you mean instead of all the fluffy bullshit around it?

JJH
JJH
5 years ago

Hello Emanuel,

I would like to ask in terms of problem-hadling-ness, are “angehen” and “umgehen” exchangeable?

Thanks!

JJH
JJH
5 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Thanks a lot!

Actually, you already did. There is a post about “gehen um” where you discussed “gehen um”, separable and inseparable “umgehen”. That’s why I’m a little confused after reading these two articles.

Radha Timalsina
Radha Timalsina
7 years ago

:) Vielen Dank.
Ich habe irgendwo gesehen diese zwei Saetze; Ich darf keinen Ski laufen. Ich moechte nicht Geschirr Spuelen.
Sind diese Saetze richtig?

Radha Timalsina
Radha Timalsina
7 years ago

Ich mache sehr viel Spass wahrend Lernens in dieser Website. Mein Deutsch ist nicht gut aber ich habe versucht in Deutsch etwas zu schreiben. Iich habe grosse zweifel zwischen Verbrauch von “Nicht und Kein”. Ich hoffe dass Sie mir helfen konnten. Vielen Vielen Dank fur solche tolle Website. :)

Tom Donaldson
Tom Donaldson
7 years ago

Concerning the concern meaning of angehen, it may just be in the Appalachian dialect of USA English, but we would quite naturally say “As far as the weather goes, it was great, …”. In fact, among the West Virginia Hillbillies with whom I grew up, it would be rare to say “As far as the weather was concerned” (it might result in nasty comments about highfalutin language, and a resulting fist fight). So, this usage of angehen feels very natural to me, and gets rid of the conflation with betreffen.

As a general case, I am finding many of your examples of how German might translate literally into English “but no one would ever say that” to be things that people DO say (or DID say). Again, it is the Appalachian dialect coming into play. It is based on 17th century English, so is a LITTLE closer to the shared roots with German. I grew up hearing the older generation (I´m an old man myself) say things like “Reach me the salt.” to mean “Hand me the salt.” Much closer to some usages of “reichen” than is today´s “High Americanish”.

Off topic, how the heck would I say “hillbilly” in German? A German friend says “Hinterwäldler”, but that could include flatlanders (he is Hessian so has no concept of our special kind of mountain red neck pride). Maybe I should ask a Bavarian.

Gloria
Gloria
7 years ago

Thank you 4 solving the mystery of translating phrases with “angehen” in them! It had always been an “Arschweh”(lol) for me. Just to make sure I fully understand the different meanings of the word, I’m posting the translation of that last German paragraph here:

“As far as the soon to be president is concerned, I do hope that he will deal with the unacceptable things in our country fast and consistently. Even if it ….(Ok, I can’t, I just can’t decode this part) ….with his opponents and the press.”

Michael Chucks (@manfish7)

I can’t tell you how much you’ve helped develop my German, I mean I go to class everyday but I tend to learn more from your blog and everyone in my class already sees me as the Bright one but it’s all down to you. Keep up the good work and thank you.

Sergei
Sergei
8 years ago

And btw, an absolutely fantastic blog! Thank you so much!

Sergei
Sergei
8 years ago

Does angehen in the sense of “as far as … concerned” overlaps with “von … her”? I mean “Was das Wetter angeht” sounds very much like “Vom Wetter her”. But is it just me stupid?

Phil Nelson
Phil Nelson
8 years ago

Hey! Thank you so much, this is a truly awesome blog (and really entertaining)! I just had a quick question about one of your examples above:
“Oh ja… als ich mich vorhin beim Essen zu ihr gesetzt hab’, um ein bisschen Small Talk zu machen, ist sie mich angegangen…”
I know gehen and various other verbs of motion take ‘sein’ in compound past tenses when they’re intransitive but I thought they should take ‘haben’ when they become transitive and take on an accusative object, so I was confused that you wrote “ist sie mich angegangen” and not “hat sie mich angegangen”. I think I might have misunderstood some fundamental rule here so it would be great if you could explain what’s happening in that sentence.
Vielen Dank!! :)

Phil
Phil
8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

That makes a lot of sense actually, it’s so useful to have it set out in that way. Thank you so much for taking the time to write such a detailed reply, I really appreciate it!! :D

Jay
Jay
8 years ago

Nescience, lol. New word for me.

As I’m a caveman, I prefer “ignorance” in that sentence.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Ah. Yeah, ignorant can be used an insult, certainly, but doesn’t have to be.

I would use “willful ignorance” for the bad German meaning.

Jay
Jay
8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Maybe a little more nuanced meaning than just neutral or negative. I would say there’s an implication of an insult there, though it’s not necessarily an insult in and of itself.

Either way, I generally wouldn’t think too highly of someone whom I leveled that comment against.

Lewis
Lewis
7 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

It doesn’t lean either way at all to me as a native englishman really, only from the context could you grasp whether it was the so named ‘negative’ meaning or not. I guess if you had to push me as to which way the word without context leans, i would say the non negative. Random rant/boring dribbling of useless information over. Thanks

germanforrunway
8 years ago

The detailed explanation on how to use the words in the right context is brilliant! Thx

William
William
8 years ago

Vielen Dank für Ihren Unterricht und Anleitung.

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
8 years ago

Hallo! Noch ne offtopic-Frage!
Es geht um die zweideutige Rolle von “werden” im Konjunktiv II.
“Würden” ist üblicherweise verwendet, um den “reinen” Konjunktiv zu ersetzen, also “würde kommen” anstatt “käme” usw.
“Würden” ist aber gleichzeitig die bloße konjunktivische Form von “werden”.
Die Frage ist dann, ob es üblich ist, diese konjunktivische Form “allein” zu gebrauchen. Beispiel: “In diesem Fall würde ich krank” oder “…würde ich krank werden”; “… diese Lebensmittel würden dann gekauft” oder “… würden dann gekauft werden”?
Ich weiß, dass rein theoretisch beides richtig ist, aber was ist gebräuchlich?

Grateful Reader
Grateful Reader
8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

Danke! Ich hab mich gewundert, weil “würde werden” zu “komplex” aussieht, und die Deutschen scheinen immer ihre Sprechweisen vereinfachen zu wollen (das Präsens anstatt des “schwierigeren” Futurs, usw.).

PS: “wird* verwendet”. Englisch beeinflusst immer noch mein Deutsch ;)

William
William
8 years ago

Hallo Immanuel,

Vielen Dank für die tolle Website. Ich kann diese Lektionen um andere zu drucken. Der Grund, warum, den ich Frage, ist, dass ich im mittleren Westen der Vereinigten Staaten lebe und Amish-Gemeinden in unserer Gegend gibt. Sie sprechen, was sie als “Pennsylvania Dutch” bezeichnen. Es ist eigentlich ein deutscher Dialekt, aber ihre Sprache stirbt langsam aus. Ich versuche zu helfen, es am Leben zu halten, indem sie Bücher und Lehren. Sie nennen auch ihre Sprache “Plattdeutsch”. Nur sehr wenige dieser Menschen verwenden Computer. die meisten verwenden keine Elektrizität. Hier sind einige Links zu was ich meine. Auch heute ist der 38. Jahrestag des Untergangs der Edmund Fitzgerald. Das könnte Sie auch interessieren. Der Unfall ereignete sich etwa 600 km von hier.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pennsylvania_dutch
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9vST6hVRj2A
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Amish

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago
Reply to  Emanuel

PA Platt ist egtl ziemlich verständlich, sogar ich kann das lesen.
http://hiwwewiedriwwe.wordpress.com/

Anonymous
Anonymous
8 years ago
Reply to  Anonymous

PA Dutch basiert auf den süddeutschen Dialekten. Zudem gibt es auch zwei verschiedene Schreibweisen: eine basiert auf der englischen, die andere auf der deutschen “Rechtschreibung”.